Local, state, national Dems rally at Pew Campus ahead of Election Day


GVL / Josh Alburtus

Josh Alburtus, News Editor

Local and statewide Democratic candidates and their supporters converged on Grand Valley State University’s Pew Campus in downtown Grand Rapids on Nov. 6 in an effort to encourage voter turnout and energize a key voting base in the state ahead of the Nov. 8 midterm elections.

The Grand Rapids region, once known as a reliable Republican bastion, has become a critical battleground for both parties in recent elections as the region has trended increasingly toward the Democratic party.

In 2018, Governor Gretchen Whitmer carried the county with 50.5% of the vote, followed by President Biden’s 51.9% in 2020, making him only the second Democratic presidential nominee to carry the county in over 50 years.

State Representative Carol Glanville, D-Walker, testified to the region’s ideological shift on Sunday night, citing her recent flipping of a Republican seat in a special election earlier this year.

“I currently serve the 74th House District here in the Grand Rapids area which is Grandville, Walker and north Kent County,” Glanville said. “That district had been a Republican stronghold for 40 years until May of 2022.”

Democrats like Glanville are hoping to repeat their recent success in the region in Tuesday’s elections. With newly drawn legislative districts following the 2020 Census, Democrats have expressed optimism in their ability to flip seats and aim for majorities in the Michigan House of Representatives and the Michigan Senate.

“It is this energy, it is this attitude here in West Michigan where people are ready to come together and do the hard work and get it done that got me over the finish line with a 52% win,” Glanville said. “We are going to do it again on Nov. 8. We’re going to hold my seat, we’re going to collect up the rest of these House seats and we are going to send a majority to help Gretchen Whitmer do the good work that needs to be done here in the state of Michigan.”

Local Democrats were joined by members of Michigan’s congressional delegation, including the state’s two Democratic U.S. Senators, Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow.

GVL / Josh Alburtus

The senators, neither of whom are up for reelection during this election cycle, promoted the candidacy of in-state Democrats while also focusing on narratives pushed by the national party. Such included their concerns over what they see as an American democracy in peril as well as the accomplishments of a unified Democratic Washington.

“We took on the drug companies, we took on Big Oil, we took on the gun lobby, we took on corporations who don’t pay their taxes and we won,” Stabenow said. “So, when people tell you there’s no difference between Republicans and Democrats, you just repeat that back to them.”

Alongside candidates in tight races on the local and national level, multiple speakers coalesced around their support for the Democratic candidate for Michigan’s newly drawn 3rd U.S. Congressional District, Hillary Scholten. Scholten, who would be the first woman in the U.S. House of Representatives from West Michigan if elected, is engaged in one of the tightest congressional races in the nation and one of the most likely Democratic pickups in a year that is expected to be a difficult fight for the party to maintain its majority in the U.S. House.

“In just two short days, we have an opportunity to send a message to our state, to our country and to the entire world about who we are and what we stand for here in West Michigan by flipping Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District and sending the first Democrat in 50 years and the first woman in history to represent this district,” Scholten said as she took the stage.

Scholten, whose candidacy is seen as a key priority by state and national Democrats alike, sought to use the rally as an opportunity to highlight the viability of what she sees as a common-ground coalition her campaign has aimed to form.

“We are at a crossroads right now here in West Michigan and on our campaign, we are building something new: a new political home for people on the right and the left who are ready to put politics aside and build a better, stronger West Michigan for all,” Scholten said.

GVL / Josh Alburtus

Following Scholten’s address to the crowd, the rally concluded with appearances from Whitmer and her running mate, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, in which the pair sought to impress upon the crowd the importance of voting in midterm elections and encouraging others to do the same.

“Every one of us has a personal stake in this election and we know midterm elections maybe don’t often get the same turnout, but they matter so much,” Whitmer said.

In speaking to what has become a key swing area of the state, Whitmer appealed to voters’ humanity and shared identities in attempting to rally support for her cause.

“We mobilize, we pull people into this moment and we fight for every person in this state – regardless of all the ugliness that we’ve had to deal with,” Whitmer said. “That’s what leadership is about, that’s what Michigan is about, that’s who we are.”

Following the event, Whitmer told the Lanthorn that the decision to join the rally at GVSU as the final stop of her cross-state tour was rooted in what she sees as the importance of the college demographic in the election.

“College students and the youth vote are incredibly important,” Whitmer said. “They have the longest stake in the outcome of this election – in the outcome of every election and we’ve got a lot to fight for right now. Voting rights, reproductive rights, civil rights, the ability to live without discrimination, to get a degree without going into a life of debt, to combat climate change – all of these things are on this ballot and that’s why we wanted to be on a GVSU campus with the amazing Hillary Scholten.”

GVL / Josh Alburtus

With the city of Grand Rapids and both GVSU’s Pew and Allendale campuses falling under the new 3rd Congressional District, Scholten told the Lanthorn that GVSU was especially important to her campaign that has sought to ensure a visible presence on campus throughout the waning months of the election.

“Michigan’s 3rd Congressional District depends on the youth vote getting out,” Scholten said. “It is the top congressional district in the entire country where youth will have an outsized impact in flipping a district red to blue. We need these students to vote, we know they’re our future.”

As Grand Rapids and Kent County have solidified themselves as crucial to the success of either major party, many will look to the region as its likely critical results begin to pour in on Election Day.